Phi Brain is supposed to be about mind games and dangerous puzzles where failure may lead to death. The protagonist is a genius in puzzle solving and for that he is chosen to be part of a dangerous puzzle solving line of games. You probably noticed that I wrote the word “puzzle” many times in a short amount of words, but trust me the anime keeps mentioning it even more frequently. You know, like in YuGiOH where they mention the word “cards” every two minutes. Same thing. And it is of equal level with that show as well, despite trying to sound serious and intelligent with the word puzzle. Oh, and it’s hardly as cool as well.
The characters are standard shounen stereotypes; too irritating and dumb to get a liking for. Shallow as well since the only thing they live for is solving puzzles if they are boys or following around boys as minor support if they are girls. Yay! And haven’t we all got tired of shows where high schoolers go to school where the only thing they are doing is NOT school work? Hey guys, I know it is very important to show that they are good kids who go to school every day, but it is kinda pointless if it is just there without a purpose in the story. IT IS ABOUT SOLVING PUZZLES, NOT SHOWING SCHOOL GROUNDS! I bet they do it on purpose so they can reuse scenery footage from other shows. Or waste airtime. Or get to our nerves.
The protagonist is supposed to be super smart and we are meant to find that cool or something but in reality it is all an illusion. Remember Lelouch in Code Geass where most thought he was a great chess player? Same thing; we are only given a few glimpses of the game and then the solution is offered without ever showing us HOW HE DID IT. So looking at the hero solving a sudoku in 10 seconds without ever seeing his line of thought, means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. If you happen to have watched Kaiji or Akagi then you know what I mean. There is absolutely no flavour or fleshing out between the characters and the way they think and feel. They are retards with nothing inside and you get bored of them very fast.
Thus the whole show has to do with puzzles as much as Naruto has to do with ninjas. NO RELATION AT ALL! Hell man, what is the point of a mystery if you are just told who the guilty guy is right away, without ever explaining WHY? And what is the point of wasting 2/3rds of each episode in irrelevant school nonsense and tired juvenile humour?
It is all a retarded motivational show so little kids can go solve sudokus or something. Too bad it is never actually helping them to be better at solving them, so chances are they will give up fast and return to playing Counterstrike or something. As for the REALLY smart kids, I bet that watching such a show will make them dumber.
The final nail in the coffin is when the protagonist is offered a magical item that makes him even more imba in puzzle solving (without again showing us how), as if he couldn’t do it without it. Oh and his eye changes colour as well. The relations to YuGiOh and Naruto never end and thus it is clearly of the same level as them right away. Fancy but retarded. Later on they constantly try to make us feel there is a world conspiracy going on and there is this ancient power that can do a lot of stuff if you… yes, solve puzzles. They even try to make it look as if the protagonist is taken over by a dark side and the whole thing reeks of YuGiOh stereotypes and a thousand times of hearing the same words repeat again and again.
NOT GOOD AT ALL! This is what Kaiji and Liar Game watch to laugh. This is what paralyzed people watch so they can facepalm. This is what you will show to the geek boy in your class, so its scores will drop and make fun of later.
Oh, I forgot to say something about the production values, didn’t I? Ok, here you go: They are mediocre without any attempt at making the puzzles exciting. And that is all you need to know about them.
STORY – 7/10
There have been a lot of anime over the years that focus on games and puzzles. However, most of these are only for kids. This one allows a nice break from the archetype, creating an interesting anime experience. It isn’t held back by the fact that it needs to stay kid-friendly. Also, the puzzles are well thought out. They’re difficult enough for people to think “damn, how can that work”, and clever enough to make you think at the end “wow, the answer was right in front of me!” Also, the show has tonnes of variety. Unlike Beyblade, any card show or the god awful Bakugan (that’s the only one out of the three examples I gave that I’ve sadly watched as a child), this show has a massive variety of puzzles in its arsenal. They can range from number games to giant frikkin’ buildings. Also, the other aspects of the story work decently enough. The story creates suspense, mystery, dramatic irony and a healthy dose of humour. After the second half, though, the series goes slightly downhill. The puzzles start to become repetitive and there are many subplots that are lost in the process. But this isn’t its biggest flaw. The biggest flaw is the ending. It was short, boring and overall unsatisfying. It should have at least spanned over two episodes, which could have been done by cutting out another useless puzzle episode where little to no character development occurs. Also, there are many things that will make you question how realistic this story is. With only a slight supernatural element, it’s obvious that this story is trying to be as realistic as possible. But there are times that this story mucks up a bit. For example, why fight using puzzles? I mean sure, it’s a puzzle anime, but it’s not a kids show! There isn’t a single gun in this series, or any other violence for that matter. It’s kinda like Yu-Gi-Oh, where someone says “I could just kill your girlfriend (or best friend in the 4kids version) now, but instead I’ll challenge you to a children’s card game to stuff it in your face”. Still, it’s fun to watch and I enjoyed it.
ANIMATION – 6/10
It’s sound. Not much to say here.
SOUND – 7/10
The soundtrack on this thing, although suffering from the usual overuse of the same tunes over and over again, is pretty cool. The theme song is one of the few I don’t mind watching all the way through. It’s the perfect mix of metal (for awesomeness) and weirdness (for the intelligent aspect of the anime). The rest of the soundtrack works pretty well. Still, I long for the day that anime composes a soundtrack in a weekly series that never repeats the same songs (unless for effect).
CHARACTERS – 6/10
I’m getting a lot of mixed feelings about these characters. They’re strong enough, but they’re kinda underdone. Kaito, the main character, is a bit all over the place here. His character wavers from the traditional hero, to the lazy guy, to the super smart. To make matters worse, his Orpheus ring (the artefact that gives him power, for this season…) causes him to have several psychological breakdowns. And where does this lead to? ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE, THAT’S WHERE! The subplot is pushed aside like it never happened. The other characters are either really well thought out or too clichéd. Nonoha, his ‘best friend who should really be his girlfriend just like ash and misty should have been’, is basically the typical tomboy. They do give her an interesting quirk, however, with her cooking. The so called ‘Nonoha sweets’ are either loved by people or hated by people. You think that she’s a bad cook, but you probably make jokes to your friends that she’s secretly putting toxic ingredients into her cookies.
Well, I’m not sure whether it’s in season one or two, but they actually show her cooking her cookies and she puts in stuff like ‘half off octopus’ and ‘toxic waste’. It’s a funny character development, but they could go a little further with that. Gammon is all over the place, just like Kaito. As a side character, he can afford to be, but it kinda gets stupid at times. Sometimes he’s all high and mighty, others he’s only into money and others he’s just so timid and out of character. It’s supposed to be character development, but it doesn’t do so well. Then, there’s Anna Gram (geddit? What a bad joke…). Well, how do I put this? Ever seen those episodes of anime where a one off character who looks like a girl is actually a boy? Know how a lot of otaku in japan feel guilty after that (no offense)? Well, to stop the guilt most shows just take the characters out after an episode or two at most (for example, Haku from Naruto (the anime sucks, the manga is okay)). But in this show, Anna is (despite looking totally like a girl and acting like one) a boy. Also, she sticks around for the whole series. It’s an interesting choice here, and I think it’s good to break from the overused archetype. So, she’s a good character. Finally, the rest of the side characters are lame and boring. Rook is the typical psychopath, the minions are your typical assorted minions and the idiot school guys who have no idea what’s really going on are your typical idiot school guys who have no idea what’s really going on.
OVERALL – 7.5/10
If I based this purely on enjoyment, I’d rate it higher. But I’m not basing this review on that, so this is the score. It’s a good show, but it has its problems. Watch it. Enjoy it. Like this review (if possible. I’m still getting used to this site).
SPOILER ALERT: REVIEW COVERING ALL THREE SEASONS
OVERALL: The show overall proved to be better than my expectations. I hesitated starting this show because the character did not look that appealing and I had a boring experience with anime centered around games. But the games in Phi Brain were fancier than I thought, and more complicated than I originally thought. Not only that, a typical game-centered anime has this kiddie feeling to it, but this show makes the games seem more adult-ish and the characters were more mature. I would say that this is a show worth re-watching.
STORY 6/10 : Personally, I am big on story and do not like meaningless comedy. Even though this show felt worthwhile, there are a few things in the story I dislike. The pacing for the first season was so confusing, I was wondering if they were ever going to reach a conclusion before the 25 episodes were up. Then Rook just reveals to me that the Ultimate Evil Overlord Pythagoreas is dead and I never even got to see his face. Sure, it was a nice twist but it ended way too soon. The storylines for seasons two and three were much better, with well thought out antagonists and a gradually revealed backstory. But honestly, I took no suspense at the ending of the entire show. I was a little mad when Rook blew up, but the way he, Gammon, and Freecell came back to life was a little too simple. I have a feeling that whoever creating this anime just got sloppy trying to create a little uncertainty to Kaito's victory, but failed. There was no way anybody in the right mind that would think that Kaito would loose after he practically won every puzzle he went up against.
ANIMATION 8/10 : The animation was a another factor that made me hesitate starting this show. The art in this animation is pretty plain, even though some of the character's looks are pretty unique. Even though it is a little simple, but I think it expresses the overall mood of the anime well enough.
SOUND 8/10: I didn't really pay attention to sound and voice actors much. I guess the hype music that turns on whenever Kaito is solving a puzzle is cool and fitting the tone.
CHARACTERS: My favorite is Da Vinci, even though I think he is weird and they should've just made him a girl. In my opinion, he is the smartest and wisest of all of them. They had slight issue of lack of feminine and wise characters in this anime, and the only character that does this happens to be this weirdo.
Phi Brain is quite an unusual anime in the sense that it didn't start off as a manga as most anime is. Because of this, it had to make itself known by having eye catching visuals, a great soundtrack and, most importantly, a gripping story.
Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle follows the story of Kaito Daimon, a puzzle genius able to solve nearly any puzzle thrown his way, along with his childhood friend Nonoha Itou, a spunky girl with great physical ability as well as a perfect idetic memory. Kaito is told about a maze made by ancients known as the impossible maze for it has no obvious solution. After finding said puzzle and managing to beat it, he finds a shrine dedicated to a peice of ancient technology called Orpheus.
After the initial episode sets the plot, each episode from then on has some sort of logic puzzle which, if unsolved, will kill whoever dares to challenge it. On this basis alone, you have to admire the writers creativity of creating over 20 puzzles to cover the 25 episode series which not only make sense but also have the potential to kill.
Now to most people, a world based on games sounds like a stupid idea. Most of those people forget that Yu-Gi-Oh, a series with a huge fanbase, bases it's world around card games which rarely differ each time. Phi Brain seems to have a story that wants to be Yu-Gi-Oh but doesn't quite get it done right.
Mix with the puzzle emotional stress put onto all protagonists and even antagonists and you have Phi Brain in all its 2 dimensional glory. Unfortunately it's glory isn't really shown until episode 2, an episode too late as the first one is always the one that brings the viewers in. The first episode was a little slow to begin with but made complete sense along with the episodes that followed, something that really should have all been done first time.
The animation is brilliant. It's eye catching, colourful and doesn't give the viewer a headache. That's not to say it's perfect. Shugo Chara did a better job of it's animation and that was 4 years before Phi Brain, but it's certainly not bad.
There are a few graphical errors that I couldn't help but notice when watching episode 1. For instance, during an interview, one of the interviewee's grew an extra finger, something that he previously didn't have. Not only that but after Kaito saves Nonoha from a pitfall, her free arm suddenly becomes very, very tiny. I mean sure it's perception but my eyes are good enough to tell me it was a mistake.
The sound is great in Phi Brain, probably one of it's best features. The opening, Brain Diver, is a catchy song which I couldn't stop singing for a while. It's upbeat nature really sets up the episode well with it a very futuristic feel along with great vocals sung by May'n. It is a song that at first might be a little irritating, but after a while, anyone is able to lighten up to it.
The ending, Hologram, is a little weaker with it being an acoustic piece by Natsumi Kiyoura but it doesn't mean it's not nice. It slows the episode down a little bit but stil retains the feel of the episode in it. As well as the opening and ending, some of the music within the episode really suits each situation well. There are a few sound bites that sound a little silly but they are uncommon and don't affect the anime.
The characters are fairly interesting in their own right. They are introduced to us quite slowly with the first 4 episodes introducing the main protagonists, each one with a very different personality. We have the cocky character, Gammon Sakanoue, the genius character, Cubic Galois, and the ditzy character, Ana Gram. Just by reading their names you can tell the writers weren't too creative, with each one having something to do with either a game or maths. The most obvious example is Ana Gram, his name sounding like Anagram. The game and maths related names continue with the main antagonist being called Rook and his right hand man called Bishop (Chess anyone?).
Names aside, the characters rarely go through development, mainly sticking to their projected personalities from their first appearance onwards. The characters do begin to develop more throughly in the second series, but that's for another review. The most interesting relationship between characters is between Kaito and Rook. Sure they are the two main characters so it's expected, but the emotional stress these two go though makes for the whole show worth watching.
Overall, I liked the series. It's a great way to pass the time, it's fun trying to figure out how they will finish each puzzle and it may even help people to try and come up with their own. It's not a perfect series but it's certainly one you shouldn't toss aside.
This is one of those shows that you know is mediocore, but nonetheless, you still find yourself enjoying it.
The premise of the show is interesting, life threatening puzzles set up by a mysterious organization; the POG. It's definitely different in its own way. The show uses it's 26 episodes well, so the pacing is pretty good. It takes its time to flesh out the main characters, and once the main villain enters the show, things pick up fairly quickly, and it becomes much more interesting. Since the first half of the show serves as build up, it's fairly episodic, and therefore a bit more dull, since nothing of major importance to the plot is really occurring. But, once again, towards the end of the series the plot does pick up. I epsecially liked the twist the creators did with the whole Orpheous band overtaking Kaito's personality. While not an original idea, it did spice the show up, and really made things more interesting. This show could have scored much higher for me if it weren't for the ending. It did have that potential. However, the episode takes on the whole 'friendship conquers everything and everything works out and i'm so happy' type feel. It's really cliched, and the whole spiel just feels anticlimactic.
The puzzles in the show however, were creative and interesting to watch, so that added to the general appeal to the show.
The style was refreshing, again in its own way. It wasn't all moe (which I personally don't really like), so the character designs were definitely original. However, due to the relatively low budget of the show, the animation wasn't all that consistent, and there were a good number of still shots. Otherwise it's decent.
While the soundtrack itself isn't all that memorable, it did fit in well with the mood of the show, and helped the overall feelings of tension and whatnot when Kaito was solving the puzzles. So the music did its job, but it never went beyond.
This section is a tricky one. At first, when I got introduced to the characters, my opinion of them ranged from bland to downright obnoxious. The characters are all over the top, but then again, that's the whole angle this show has taken. As the anime progressed though, I got used to them, and actually started to like them. There are a couple of episodes that stick in my mind, when Kaito is experiencing visions, that really show how well the characters interact with one another. In those particular episodes Nonoha particularly shines, and takes her place as the main female lead. I liked that the creators didn't make her a puzzle solving genius as well, who would always be overshadowed by Kaito. That would have taken away from her character and would have just made the show more cliche, since she is the female lead. Instead she acts as more of Kaito's moral support, so she grows on you as well.
Rook was also an interesting character, though I feel he was the most inconsistent one as well. Though his character itself wasn't all that great, his arrival really changed the gears of the show. And everyone's reaction to him was equally as fun to watch. However, his personality really did confuse me. His motivations are conflicting; they don't make all that much sense, and his whole personality changes, particularly in the last two episodes. He was mainly good as a plot device, and developing Kaito's character, not much else.
I really did enjoy this show. While it does have its obvious flaws, and maybe unoriginal, it's still an enjoyable watch, particularly around episode 12 onwards. Don't go in expecting too much, that mindset will only lead you to see the disappointing apsects of the show. But if you're looking for some time to waste, look no further than Phi Brain.
The only thing I really don't understand is how the second season will be played out. With the POG defeated and Rook's grudge resolved, I honestly don't know what direction the directors have planned for the second season.